Rory McIlroy blamed “the burden of expectation” for his Irish Open collapse in Killarney.

The Holywood star, 21, crashed out of contention with a nightmare 76 in the third round before a closing 71 left him tied 35th on two under.

Eager to get back to the US for this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, McIlroy said: “It felt very similar to the Irish Open last year.  I don’t know if it’s the extra pressure or whatever, but I just find it very hard to really get myself going.

“It’s definitely a difficult week for the Irish players, especially with the two weeks coming up as well.  If it had of been any other week, I definitely wouldn’t have played.

“I’m going to have to deal with this every year of my life.  It’s not something I can get away from unless I don’t play but I’ll definitely be playing.  It’s just tough. 

“I think that’s why you haven’t seen that many Irish winners because it’s just tough to win your National Open.  Pádraig has done it just once and Shane did it last year.

“It just was very, very hard, because you’ve got the burden of expectation on you from everyone else around, and you’re trying to live up to that.

“And if it doesn’t quite come off, then you’re being very hard on yourself and then that reflects poorly on your game, as well.”

World No 8 McIlroy was the hot favourite with the bookies to land his third pro title in Kerry.

But he while he made 20 birdies, he also racked up 14 bogeys and two double bogeys on a track that punished his aggression.

He got the fast start he wanted on Saturday but his title challenge ended with a double bogey at the sixth.

From that point on he had one eye on this week’s $8.5m World Golf Championship and the other on the following week’s US PGA.

He said: “It’s tough to come back from that, especially at the Irish Open, because you’re trying so hard, not just for yourself but for everyone else and it just becomes that little bit more difficult.

“My head wasn’t really in it for the last 27 holes this week. I’ve got this big run coming up and I was sort of looking ahead to that a bit more than I was this week, if I’m honest with you.” 

Insisting he’d love to come back to Killarney next year, McIlroy added: “I just couldn’t really get my head around here and get focussed. But it’s a good track.

“The atmosphere was brilliant.  It was fantastic.  They love their golf down here and really, really support it.  I wouldn’t have any problems with the Irish Open coming back here.”